Ryan Crocker was at the helm of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul under two different presidents — George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, Crocker reopened the embassy in 2002 after the invasion of Afghanistan. He’s won the Presidential Medal of Freedom and served as ambassador to six countries.
In an interview with the Spokesman-Review published on Sunday after the fall of Kabul, Crocker called the loss of Afghanistan “a self-inflicted wound” on President Joe Biden’s part and said he was “left with some grave questions in my mind” about the president’s ability to lead.
Crocker laid blame at the feet of the last two presidents but argued Biden’s decision to accelerate the withdrawal of troops precipitated the downfall of the country.
“I think the direction was predictable; the trajectory was not,” he said.
“What President Biden has done is to embrace the Afghan policy of President Trump, and this is the outcome.”
Former President Donald Trump signed an agreement with the Taliban in February 2020 to pull troops out of Afghanistan. In April, Biden announced a symbolic Sept. 11, 2021, deadline to have our men and women in uniform out of the country.
However, the Trump administration had worked toward a conditions-based withdrawal — a strategy the Biden administration abandoned.
“This is not conditions-based. The president has judged that a conditions-based approach … is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever,” a senior administration official told The Washington Post in April.
“He has reached the conclusion that the United States will complete its drawdown and will remove its forces from Afghanistan before Sept. 11.”
The withdrawal was accelerated in June, with Biden promising most of our troops would leave the country by the end of August.
On Saturday, he announced the return of 5,000 troops to Afghanistan to evacuate U.S. and allied personnel, as well as Afghans who had aided the Americans and would be in danger of Taliban retribution.
The interview with Crocker took place on Friday — before the Taliban took Afghanistan but when it was clear the insurgents were quickly decimating the Afghan military.
“Crocker said while the pace of the insurgents’ advance has surprised him, the Biden administration should have seen it coming,” the Spokesman-Review reported.
“We’ve spent the last almost two years delegitimizing the Afghan government and its security forces,” he said. “It has destroyed the morale of the government and certainly of its security forces.”
He also blamed “a total lack of coordinated, post-withdrawal planning on our part.”
“That’s why this is all so sad,” he said. “It is a self-inflicted wound.”
The administration has asked other governments not to recognize the Taliban diplomatically unless a peace deal is signed. As Crocker pointed out, that probably doesn’t matter to the insurgents, as they can now boast of having beaten the strongest military in the world.
“We’re going to pay for that for a long time to come, and that’s why it is insane — just idiotic — to think that we can tell the Taliban that if they don’t stop taking over territory and play nice, the international community will withhold recognition and support,” he said.
“The Taliban really doesn’t care, because they’ve got something far more valuable.”
“We have seen this movie before,” he added. “This would be the Taliban of the 1990s that gave safe haven to al-Qaida, except they’re meaner and tougher than they were then because of what they’ve been through.”
And then there’s the human tragedy: “As the Taliban moves into different cities and towns, they’ve got their hit list. So it’s going to be messy, it’s going to be incomplete and more people are going to die,” Crocker said.
“I’m left with some grave questions in my mind about [Biden’s] ability to lead our nation as commander in chief,” Crocker added. “To have read this so wrong — or, even worse, to have understood what was likely to happen and not care.”
On Monday, Biden said he stood “squarely behind” his decision to leave Afghanistan in a speech at the White House. However, he said he hadn’t anticipated the pace of the Taliban’s advance and that the withdrawal had been “far from perfect.”
Biden still doesn’t get it. The American people supported the withdrawal. They wanted a president who could manage it properly, though.
I can stand “squarely behind” my decision to go get groceries for my wife. She would 100 percent support that. However, my shopping trip would hardly increase domestic harmony if I didn’t anticipate the garage door being closed when I backed up and admitted the smashed door made for a “far from perfect” exit.
We’ve left behind a crushed Afghan government we spent 20 years building, a ruined military we invested roughly $83 billion in and a country that’s now under the control of the same Islamic extremist group that led to our intervention in 2001. We’ve wasted lives and assured more blood will be shed.
I already had grave questions about Biden’s ability to lead our nation as commander in chief. This weekend answered them.
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